13. Demolishing the Raptors
Having stolen a game in Toronto, the Bucks returned home for Game 3 against the Raptors in 2017 filled with confidence. That confidence was undoubtedly contagious too, as it spread to the fans who packed out the Bradley Center and made for an unforgettable atmosphere.
It started when the game ops crew introduced the Raptors to the Barney theme tune, and only built rapidly from there.
Louder than it had been in years, and likely fueled by a belief that wouldn’t have been justified at any other point since the team’s Conference Finals performance in 2001, the Bradley Center crowd pushed the Bucks forward and completely threw the Raptors off of their game.
Giannis Antetokounmpo reflected on the crowd noise after the game, saying, “It was big from the first play“, while Raptors coach Dwane Casey spoke of how his team was “ambushed” in a “hostile environment“.
Khris Middleton paced the Bucks with 20 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals, Antetokounmpo was close behind with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks, while Greg Monroe stepped up with 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals off the bench.
It was the defense that really made the difference, though. The Raptors could only muster up 77 points in total, while DeMar DeRozan was notably 0-of-8 from the field.
A 27-point victory represented a memorable blowout, although it ultimately proved to be Milwaukee’s final win of the series. Still, in terms of the development of key players, and the re-energizing of the fanbase that has been at the fore in Milwaukee’s current 60-win season, the electric atmosphere from this playoff game should be remembered as a turning point.